Josh Sawyers, Class of 2019
Innovation Center Manager, The University of Virginia's College at Wise
St. Paul, VA
What is new and exciting with you now or since your time with Lead Virginia?
In the few months since graduation, we’ve launched the Oxbow Center for Technology and Innovation, which is the place for entrepreneurs in Southwest Virginia to collaborate and scale their businesses. Opportunity SWVA, in partnership with UVA Wise, was funded by GO Virginia Region One to work on the Regional Entrepreneurial & Innovation ecosystem in Southwest Virginia. This work will be underway shortly as we aim to strengthen the current entrepreneurial ecosystem through a variety of programs, spaces, and the development of risk funding sources. On a personal note, I have been selected to participate as a fellow in the Appalachian Regional Commission’s inaugural class of the Appalachian Leadership Institute. This extensive nine-month program offers skill-building seminars, best practice reviews, field visits, mentoring, and networking throughout the ARC region.
How did Lead Virginia shape you as a leader?
Before Lead Virginia, I had a surface-level understanding of each of the regions across the Commonwealth. This program gave me the invaluable opportunity to see the work that the people of each region are doing to address their unique challenges and move forward together. Not to mention, spending an extended period of time with over fifty exemplary classmates provided firsthand instances of leadership and thought-provoking conversations that will stay with me forever.
Since Lead Virginia, how have you put your social capital to work?
I’m looking forward to the first opportunity to pick up the phone and tap into the new network of connections outside Southwest Virginia with their diverse areas of expertise. With the exposure to social capital, what I looked to gain from the ARC Leadership Institute program has been shaped as well. Knowing I’ll have the ability to gain additional shared values and understanding across a region as vast as the Appalachian Regional Commission is very exciting.
What was your biggest takeaway or lesson learned from Lead Virginia that continues to resonate with you today?
One statement that John Thomas made during the opening session in Williamsburg made a particularly significant impression: “If true leadership is the ability to understand the needs and interests of those we serve, then there must be opportunities for leaders to acquire that broader perspective.” Lead Virginia provides that opportunity.